Continues from yesterday's post.
ory and Shannon brought up how to find a cottage when they next joined the Celtic gathering at the metalsmith's home in the town. After the usual barrage of ribald remarks, one of the other local craftsmen spoke up. "In fact, I have just such a place on the edge of town. I have been cleaning it out in order to lease it. I should be honored to have ye and your goodwife live there."
Heather was overwhelmed with how quickly her husband had pursued her wish and how quickly something had come available. They set out the next day to look at the cottage and talk to the craftsman.
The cottage was on the outskirts of Lawrencium on the road that led south past the harbor. It had a view of the sea just as Heather's cottage in Ayr had. It was not large nor in the best of condition, but it was in better shape than hers had been before she had met Shannon and he had made her fall in love with him while he was repairing it.
While Heather went about the cottage, in and out, Shannon just strolled aimlessly smiling happily. He too was remembering their first months together, how quiet and simple and sweet life had been. He wanted that back as much as she did. But then he had a thought that made him stop. He found her looking at the small kitchen garden behind the cottage, planning how she might clear it out and replant. "Heather, darlin'.." he began.
She looked up somewhat distractedly. He went on. "Ye do know I shall continue to sing and play at the court, do ye not?"
She considered for a moment and replied, "Well I suppose, close as we are, there is no reason ye cannot. But ye will sleep here and help me with the animals and garden and the cottage, will ye not?"
Shannon put his arms around her. "I shall most certainly do all that. Heather, I think we can be happy again."
Her eyes filled with tears. "Oh Shannon, ye want that too?" She settled into his chest and let him hold her and sing to her.
A few weeks later Heather gathered up little Seamus from the nursery and she and Shannon set up housekeeping in the little cottage.
At first and for some weeks to come their lives together returned to a semblance of what they had once had. Shannon feasted on waking up every morning with Heather beside him and Seamus behind his curtain in his small bed. Heather enjoyed the simple fact of being a family. She worked alongside Shannon making repairs to the cottage where needed and digging up the long abandoned garden to prepare it for planting n the spring. Shannon built a pen and delighted Heather.. and Seamus.. one day by coming back from an errand in the town with a nanny goat. Heather found a neighbor with hens she could buy. That Shannon left every evening to go perform his duties at court made Heather long for him to sit at home with her before the fire, but the solitude with him more than made up for it. Most of all she loved the walks along the sand by the seashore with him carrying Seamus, the sea breeze tousling their matching mops of red hair, their identical smiles and eyes turned to each other and h er. Heather was happy, almost for the first time in her life.
One evening after Shannon had come home a little later than usual from court she asked him, "Shan, do ye still have that little room over the tavern?"
She did not like the way he then responded. He looked at her startled, then averted his face and said, "I dinnae know ye knew about it."
Heather fought her impulse to start accusing. Instead she went to him and took his chin in her hand and turned his face to hers. He looked worried. "I knew.. there are no secrets at court, and Rory told me why ye took it.."
He smiled sardonically. "He did, did he, the darlin' man? He was not the one who told ye was he?"
She shook her head. "Nay, I told him I knew and he told me how you were feelin' about sleepin' in the Hall.."
Shannon looked annoyed. "I would be after preferin' he did not share me secrets."
"'Tis true, though, is it not?" She started to feel alarmed. Secrets? What secrets? From herself?
"What, that I dinnae cherish the ridicule of those who say I cannae keep me wife happy? Aye, 'tis true and I should have rather ye dinnae know that I felt that way.. 'tis not manly." He shook his head. "Nay, I have not given up the room.. I forgot all about it. I suppose once the landlord asked for me rent I should have remembered."
"Do ye have anything there?" Heather asked.
He thought a moment. "I dinnae think so. I just slept there.. there might be a chamber pot. If I left anything, it dinnae matter." He looked at her considering. "Ye are not angry with me then?" His face was reflecting sincere concern.
She leaned and kissed him. "Nay, I am not. Ye should let the landlord know ye dinnae need it any more, though."
He did not answer, as he was kissing her back now, and starting to caress her.
Heather went to find the room the next day, to see to it that Shannon would not have access to it anymore. She spoke with the landlord of the tavern, who looked at her astonished and not a little uncertain. "Good woman," he explained. "I shall have to hear this from the man himself."
Irritated Heather went around to the alley to look for the rickety stairs that Rory had described. They were the only stairs there and led to what was no more than a small loft with access from the alley. She pushed open the unlatched door.
When her eyes adjusted to the little light she stood frozen. Her first reaction was to the bareness of the room. It had only one piece of furniture, a hard wooden bench that Shannon, not a tall man, could not stretch out on without his feet hanging over the end. It had but the one small window which had no covering. Even in the morning the noises from the few guests in the tavern resounded up here. It smelled of an unemptied chamber pot. She saw it under the bench, nothing more than a cooking pot. As she knelt to withdraw it and take it to empty it, she noticed a bundle under the bench. She shook her head, "Nothing left here, eh, me love?" she sighed.
After taking the pot out and dumping it with its contents into a trash heap she went back up to retrieve the bundle. She sat on the bench and pulled it open. It was just one of his scarves and an old shirt. She held them to her nose to breathe in his smell.. and detected something that did not belong, something sweeter. Then she saw it. a woman's glove. Her blood froze in her veins. She stared at the thing, lifted and smelled the scent. She could not imagine any woman better than a bawd coming up here with Shannon, but the evidence was in her own hands. She put the offensive item back in the bundle and shoved it back under the bench. She sat a moment and seethed. "I might have known. So Rory says he is true. I think not."
As she walked home she thought about the past few happy weeks. It occurred to her that Shannon had been awfully quick to agree to the idea of the cottage. She had been fooled into thinking he wanted to regain the happiness they had had in her cottage in Scotland. Now she wondered if he had just wanted to avoid the humiliation of being locked out by her by being beyond the scrutiny of the other men at the castle. Or worse yet, perhaps he wanted to keep her away from the castle, from the goings on at court and rumors that might put her onto his latest dalliance. Or might there even be a woman at court he was bedding? How convenient to have his wife out of the way in a little cottage away from the castle.
When Shannon came home later that day from Cedric the metalsmith's house to dress for court and his nightly performance, he found Heather sitting at their table glaring at him. He stopped, the smile he had had for her frozen on his face. Heather said, "Seamus, go out and pet the goat." The little boy looked from his stepmother to his father, then dashed out the open doorway.
"Heather, what is it?" Shannon asked with foreboding.
"Who is she? Or are there too many to know all their names then?" Heather hissed.
Shannon stood dumbstruck. "Who is who, pray tell?"
"I have been to your love nest and seen that a woman has been there," she answered coldly.
"Me.. me love nest? What are you talkin' about, darlin'?" He stared at her. She just glared at him, refusing to answer. "Heather, there is no one but ye, I promise, I swear to ye." His eyes beseeched her. "Please, believe me.. there is no one."
She stood up and lifted the bundle she had made up of his things and brought them to him. She shoved them into his arms. She turned and lifted his lute from where it lay and shoved that at him as well. "Ye thought if ye got me out here to the edge of town I would be easier to fool. Well, ye have shown your true colors. I want ye to leave tonight and not come back here."
Shannon pleaded with her. He swore that he was faithful. He entreated her to explain what she meant by having evidence of a woman in a love nest. He could not imagine the bleak room over the tavern could possibly be what she meant. Slowly his despair in the face of her intransigence turned into hurt pride and anger. When she adamantly refused to speak, he cast a furious look at her and snapped, "Why have I wasted me love on ye all this time… petty suspicious woman." He turn and stalked out the door.
Heather was rooted to where she stood. He had never been this angry with her, not to be so insulting. She finally sank down onto the bench at the table and started to weep miserably. Seamus's head came in at the door. "Mama, Mama," he cried. "Dinnae weep. " He put his little arms around her and held her.
Next: The Queen Goes to Affynshire
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com